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It sneaks up. Catches your breath. Takes it away. Sometimes you see it coming and run. Sometimes it knocks you to your knees. There is a part of you that hopes you will disappear into its deep darkness.

I watched them stomp their feet. Pump their fists. Vocal cords straining. Faces contorting. Vibrating with it, their energy passionate and powerful. Chocolate and milk-white skin in step. Together. In one voice. I wanted to join them and be part of their raw, expressive, moving-moaning-body-lament.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth. (Naomi Shihab Nye)

The cloth is huge. It spreads out holding, covering and enshrouding us all. And yet, we think it ours to wear painfully and alone. Embarrassed when it lingers, we pretend it isn’t there or hide it in a dark corner. It remains visible in body ailments and heavy emotions. But, it is communal even when it is personal. It is our common bond that connects us to everyone including the earth we walk upon and the creatures that walk with us.

We see our collective sorrows in images of fire-ravaged forests and suicides of school shooting victims. We hear our communal lament in the throated utterances of the Maori Haka, the insistent plea for affordable health care and the loud truth that skin color determines whether or not someone feels safe. Yes, even in Corvallis.

“Grief remains in our collective souls for the abuses of millions of individuals’ sequestered pain, generating a persistent hum in the background of our lives.” writes Francis Weller. “It takes everything we have to deny the sorrow of the world.” Alas, we do try. Under the weight of untended grief, blame comes easily and asks nothing of us. Worse yet, in the darkness, it regresses, becoming more primal and violent.

It is easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed in a world that mocks our ability to help. A community that brings grief to light and honors it through ritual that involves our whole selves is healing. When sorrows are spoken and heard, our compassion increases for each other. When lament is public, released energy deepens our capacity to work together for lasting good. What and with whom we grieve reflects what we value. What if before we problem-solve, march, vote, debate, issue statements or any other effort to restore what has been damaged, we GRIEVE? Additionally, what might a Corvallis “Haka” look like?

First Presbyterian invites you to enter lament with us this Sunday, March 31 at 4 4 p.m. for an open service of Healing and Wholeness. Accompanied by harp and each other, space will be offered to come home to the sacred and necessary work of grief. This is what we believe:

“We believe that God is present in the darkness before the dawn, where fear and courage join hands, conflict and caring link arms and the sun rises over barbed wire. We believe in a with-us God, who sits down in our midst to share our humanity. We affirm a faith that takes us beyond the safe place into action, into vulnerability, and into the streets.” — The Iona Community.

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Sharon Edwards is associate pastor (part-time) at First Presbyterian Church, Corvallis, teaching yoga there and at Live Well Studio. As a certified spiritual director she also meets with individuals and groups and enjoys leading retreats that engage the body, mind and heart.

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